F1 Silly Season: Sainz to Renault, and More
The Formula 1 silly season volcano erupted into life ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix as drivers, teams, and engine manufacturers announced their plans for 2018 and beyond.
Realistically, September is the latest anyone could have left their decisions with plans underway for new chassis’ and the next campaign starting in six months’ time.
Sainz Goes to Renault
Carlos Sainz Jr. has been loaned to Renault for 2018 to partner Nico Hulkenberg.
He continues to be associated with Red Bull but will get an experience of how a manufacturer works for the first time. Sainz has only driven for Toro Rosso to date, claiming a career-best sixth four times.
— Carlos Sainz (@Carlossainz55) September 15, 2017
— Carlos Sainz (@Carlossainz55) September 15, 2017
“This choice is well-aligned with our mid-term strategic plans,” managing director Cyril Abiteboul said. “We feel that Nico and Carlos will complement each other on and off track and the combination should help us push forwards on the grid.”
The signing leaves Jolyon Palmer on the sidelines for now after over 35 events with the team. Rumors have also consistently linked Sainz with taking over Palmer’s seat for the next contest in Malaysia.
Palmer denied this in the press conference before the start of the weekend, saying, “I have a contract. I’ve got seven more races this year. There have been suggestions for the past 35 races that I might not be at the next one, or in the next few, so this is nothing new for me, it’s water off a duck’s back now. It’s the same, I think at probably most races this year it’s been the case and nothing has changed.”
McLaren Joins Up With Renault
Renault will power McLaren for the first time in its history in the next three seasons as the former constructors’ champions split with Honda.
It ends its time with the brand after three years. If the MCL32 does not claim a podium by the end of 2017, it will be the first time that McLaren has not finished in the top-three through a period with an engine manufacturer since the M7D Alfa Romeo-powered car in 1970.
The switch could also change the situation around Fernando Alonso’s future. The Renault engine has won in June with Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull, and Alonso has previously said that he wants to be back on the top step. The manufacturer was also the team that Alonso won a title for in 2005 and 2006.
There’s also discussion surrounding his options now being limited, despite previously being linked to a possible Verizon IndyCar Series ride. However, the seat he was likely to have taken was filled at Andretti Autosport by Zach Veach. As a result, he could be back in F1 with just a possible one-off ride for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
Alonso gave an update in Thursday’s press briefing, adding, “There are options everywhere. And they are all very good. You just need to be patient and wait a couple of weeks. The Indy 500 is together with Monaco, as we know, there is another one still to complete, so the triple crown is still ongoing at the maximum speed. I agree with the same thing [McLaren executive director] Zak [Brown] said: if I remain in F1 it’s because I believe I can win next year. So, that will ease the decision a lot because I will be in Monaco because I don’t want to lose any points. The plan is ongoing and very good news is coming.”
Toro Rosso Moves to Honda Power
As a result of McLaren’s switch, Honda is staying in F1 in the back of the Toro Rosso chassis as it moves away from Renault. It has a multi-year agreement to run the Japanese power units.
“It will be a question of adaption of our plans rather than a wholesale change and we are in the process of re-planning our design and production activities in conjunction with Honda to ensure that we both hit all our important deadlines,” technical director James Key said. “We will be working hard not to only re-design the power unit installation but also ensure that this has minimal or no effect on the ongoing development work for 2018.”
Sainz’s vacant seat could allow Toro Rosso to debut a new racer, with several options available. Red Bull reserve Pierre Gasly is winning in the Super Formula championship with a Honda-powered car, Sean Gelael took part in his first practice session for them in Singapore, and F2 and GP3 competitors Nobuharu Matsushita and Nirei Fukuzumi are both Honda-supported and working their way through the ladder system.
Kubica, Rosberg Start Working Together
Retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg is continuing to be involved in motorsports as he tweeted that he is helping Robert Kubica with his future.
Kubica was one of the names in the frame for Sainz’s Renault seat after having three test sessions with them but is still waiting for an opportunity for a potential comeback.
The two of them may work perfectly as both have been in similar places before in their careers. The duo both burst onto the scene in 2006 and finished close in seventh and eighth in the drivers’ championship in the last season the Pole competed in in 2010. Kubica was then in the same bracket as Rosberg as someone who could do great things later before his rallying accident affected that.
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